Siena College is honored to have the opportunity to recognize the life and achievements of Doctor Robert J. Paeglow, Physician and Humanitarian.
Born in Columbia, South Carolina in 1954, Doctor Paeglow (Dr. Bob) moved to the West Hill Neighborhood of Albany, New York as an infant. The West Hill neighborhood at that time consisted of lower income, working class families of German and Irish descent. He was the oldest of six children born to Charles (Chuck) Paeglow, an x-ray technician and carpenter, and Arlene, a homemaker. He attended the neighborhood Catholic school, St. Patrick's, and Cardinal McCloskey Memorial High School, graduating in 1972, without particular distinction except for a Regents Scholarship which enabled him to live at home and attend a local university free of charge.
In 1974, Dr. Bob married Liliane (Leane) Dupuis, and their first two children were born while he was attending college. Both Leane and Bob worked part-time jobs to try and support their young family. Leane worked as a retail clerk and Bob worked unloading ships, as a plumber's helper, and at many other odd jobs. Dr. Bob graduated from The University at Albany, again without particular distinction. He was able to find a job with the Albany County Health Department, which enabled them to move from their first tiny, two room, basement apartment to a more suitable living space.
In 1981, Dr. Bob began work in the Radiation Safety Office at Albany Medical Center. He taught himself Radiation Physics and gradually improved his position to a level of teaching "Radiation Physics" in the Board Preparation Course for Radiology Residents. Dr. Bob and Leane moved their family to Altamont, a rural village west of Albany, where their younger two children were born. In 1988, while watching a local television documentary about the health care crisis in the Capital Region of New York State, Dr. Bob became convinced that not only was he capable but was called to go to medical school to become an answer for the multitude of people who had limited or no access to quality health care. Leane had completed her Associate Degree in Nursing at that time and was receiving numerous requests to provide advice to friends and neighbors who had no health insurance. This further cemented Dr. Bob's resolve to make a difference for those who were less fortunate. Dr. Bob applied to medical schools in 1989, but due to his undistinguished previous academic record, he was rejected for any interviews except for Albany Medical College. Albany Medical College granted him a "courtesy" interview because he was technically a "faculty member" as he had been teaching "Radiation Physics:' Dr. Bob credits Divine intervention with his being accepted to Albany Medical College in 1990.
Motivated by the incredible privilege of being allowed to attend medical school, Dr. Bob poured himself into his studies. Despite working 24 hours a week to help support the family during the first two years of medical school, he managed to graduate cum laude; was named a member of the medical college honor society, Alpha Omega Alpha; was President of his class for three years; and received more awards and honors than any of his classmates upon graduation.
In 1994, as a fourth year student at Albany Medical College, Dr. Bob led a small team into post-war Mozambique, Africa to provide basic medical care to refugees of the war. The horror he experienced in the refugee camps further cemented his resolve to use all of his resources to somehow make life better for the poor. Every vacation during residency was used to bring care to some hurting, desperate place, usually in Africa. Realizing that he could only make a small contribution by himself he began to recruit medical students to accompany him on these missions in hopes of influencing them to make a deeper commitment to helping mankind. Since the first medical mission in 1994, and now as a Board Certified Family Physician, Dr. Bob has led 28 medical missions involving dozens of medical students, while caring for over 100,000 patients in the mission field.
In 2000, Dr. Bob began to feel a call to return to his old West Hill neighborhood which had degenerated into the poorest, most crime-infested, desperate neighborhood in the City of Albany. Selling the family home and investing everything, Dr. Bob and Leane moved into the inner city and founded the Koinonia Primary Care/Mental Health Practices, located at the Capital Region Prayer and Healing Center, a Christian ministry Dr. Bob co-founded with Reverend Peter Whitehouse. Koinonia opened in February of2002 and provides primary care and mental health care to the poor in the West Hill neighborhood and beyond. Dr. Bob has worked for seven years without a salary to make this care possible. Leane has labored beside him as the office nurse and now as a nurse for the Neighborhood Health Advocate Program, as well as serving as the West Hill Neighborhood Association President. Dr. Bob also serves as an Associate Professor of Family and Community Medicine at Albany Medical College, as well as the Associate Pre- Doctoral Director of the Albany Medical College Department of Family and Community Medicine. Through these roles, he involves medical students and residents in every aspect of Koinonia's mission, pioneering new programs such as the Care from the Start Program involving first and second year medical students, so to teach and influence them to learn the joys of caring for the poor and less fortunate. He is an advisor and mentor to countless medical students, as well as pre-med students. He has been the Keynote Speaker for the Siena College/ Albany Medical College Program Senior Seminar for the past five years.
Although he, himself has very few material possessions, he considers himself incredibly rich. This richness has come from investing himself in the lives not only of the poor but in those who will carry on the legacy of caring and serving their fellow man. During the past few years, Dr. Bob has received both local and national recognition for his work with the underserved, including his receiving The Association of American Medical Colleges' Humanism in Medicine Awardin 2006. Most recently, on April 1, 2009, Dr. Bob was honored as the recipient of The 2009 Jefferson Award for Public Service in the Capital District of New York State, which annually recognizes a person providing exemplary contributions to community and public service. He is currently working on his autobiography which will share his personal philosophy on health care and medical education.
In recognition of his dedication to live a noble life of service to others through his faith and his skills as a physician, by serving the poor and vulnerable of our society and the world, Siena College awards Doctor Robert J. Paeglow, the honorary degree, Doctor of Humane Letters.